FORMER Darlington footballer Ian Larnach, a man for whom the word “indomitable” was inadequate and “incredible” an understatement, has died after an eight-year battle with serious illness. He was 67.

He’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2011, shortly after his 60th birthday, after returning the routine self-test kit through the post.

Thereafter he founded his own charity, raising over £30,000 for cancer-related causes in the North-East, chiefly through an annual golf day at Bishop Auckland and a Christmas bonanza at Spennymoor town hall.

He did it, Ian said, in gratitude for all the care he’d had. “They made me feel the most important person in the hospital, not just a pleb in a bed. I’d walk over glass for the girls in the Mara unit at Bishop Auckland hospital.”

Born in Ferryhill Station, he played just twice for Darlington in 1969, scoring both times – “I’m always telling the grandkids about it – before injury prematurely ended hopes of a Football League career.

Subsequently he played for South Shields and for Spennymoor United, managed Darlington’s youth and reserve teams and was also manager of the Crook Town side which memorably toured India in 1976. He later ran a successful flooring company in Spennymoor.

He’d played 18 holes around the Bishop Auckland course the day before his initial operation, completed a fund raising 100-hole challenge – with friend and former World Cup football referee George Courtney – in 2014.

They’d teed off at 5am, returned to the clubhouse fifteen-and-a-half hours later.

Ian was playing golf until two weeks ago and last week took his wife, son and daughter and other family members on holiday to Derbyshire.

“He was just an amazing man, determined not to be beaten and to live life to the full,” said George. “Even when he was clearly unwell, his thoughts were always positively for others and never pityingly for himself.”

George had also been one of the first passengers last summer when Ian fulfilled a long-held ambition by buying a Mazda MX5 Roadster sports car.

“It frightened the wits out of him,” said Ian, driving it until shortly before his death.

“Something like that,” said George.

Though positive and determined, Ian also fulfilled bucket list ambitions like paragliding – sponsored, of course – and riding pillion through Weardale on the back of a Harley Davidson motor bike.

The best of company, the most engaging of men, he’d encouraged all men over 60 to return the bowel-screening kit. “It might seem a bit embarrassing, but it was one of the best things I ever did.”